I kind of feel like a hypocrite for even broaching this topic right now – with my two jobs, putting in about 70 hours a week. There was a time when I worked much less, and even back then I thought I was sooooo busy. Even though I had a lot more free time to devote to things like exercise, hobbies, cultivating my friendships and relationships, I didn't make good use of my time.
Now that I have less free time, I've realized how much more possessive of that time and more selective in spend I use it – gone are the days of binge watching Kardashians (it was only to mock! I promise!). I make a dedicated point to step away from my laptop to do something else I find valuable and fulfilling (even if that's just sleeping).
As someone who is proactively trying to reclaim my work-life balance, I've found some tips that I'm sure many of you could use.
Learn to Say “No”
Whether it's a work-related request that is outside of your job description, or a personal invite from a friend to attend their husband's stepsister's daughter's dance recital, you're allowed to say “no”. No one likes a martyr.
Take Breaks…Even on Busy Days
You're entitled to a lunch break. In fact, many jobs require them and if you don't take them you're breaking the law (or something…I didn't exactly research labor laws in writing this). Or even if you don't take a lunch break, at least get up every couple hours and walk around, grab a coffee, step outside and breathe in some life-affirming smog.
Make Plans with Friends
Of course, only if you want to. Your time is YOURS. But having something later in the week to look forward to will help you work more efficiently so that you're not stressed out during your social time.
Set Aside Time for Hobbies
Taking time to do something you're passionate about makes you a more well-rounded, and presumably happier person. Seriously though, make dedicated time for things you enjoy. Put it on your calendar, tattoo it onto your arm, tell everyone on Facebook, do whatever you need to do to stay accountable for that time so that you don't end up putting it off in favor of work instead.
Reconstruct Your Work Schedule
If you're lucky enough to have a flexible work schedule, construct it in a way that best suits your life. You don't have to work from 9-5 (or 9-6,7,8). Work during the hours that you're most productive or plan work around the other equally important parts of your life.
Set a Dedicated Stop Time
This is most important if you work remotely. It's so easy to let your work tasks drift late into the evening if you're on your couch the whole time. Additionally, if you force yourself to be logged off by 5 or 6 every night, you'll find you're more productive in those limited hours you gave yourself, because you have to be.
Visualize Your Perfect Work Day
This may seem silly, but picture what a perfectly structured and perfectly manageable work day looks like to you, and then take steps to make it as much of a reality as possible. This may mean setting boundaries with co-workers, or setting up your workspace to make you more efficient, but if you dream the impossible dream, you might at least come close to living it.
Take Time Away from Screens
This means ALL screens. Even if it's just for a few hours on Sunday to give your eyes a break. Remember back to the days before your face was buried in your phone 24/7. I'm sure you found other ways to occupy your time. Go occupy your time with those things.